Home / Bitemarks / Bitemark identification in child abuse cases – Wagner 1986 – Full Text

Bitemark identification in child abuse cases – Wagner 1986 – Full Text

This paper highlights the important issue of bitemarks on children and correctly states that

Bitemarks in children represent child abuse until proven differently

The paper contains useful information on the identification and collection of evidence and was cited in the American Academy of Peadiatrics guidelines on the subject. However, the paper is from the mid 1980’s and the interpretation and analysis of bitemarks has changed since then and there are important caveats with regard to the identification of the age of any suspected biter – you can read a detailed examination of this issue here.

Given these warnings the paper is nonetheless an important work that should be considered by those who come into contact with children – and have a duty of care to report injuries that are suggestive of NAI.

Bitemarks in children represent child abuse until proven differently. They are rarely accidental and are good indicators of genuine child abuse. There is a spectrum in the appearance of bitemarks throughout childhood. In infancy the bites tend to be punitive in nature and generally are located anatomically differently from bitemarks inflicted later in life. Older children reflect bitemarks which represent either assault or sexual abuse. These “tool marks” often can be separated on the basis of appearance as well as location. Human bitemarks are identified by their shape and size. They have an elliptical or oval pattern containing tooth and arch marks. These impressions can be matched against the dentition and dental impressions of the victim and suspects. Using tool-mark technology, comparisons are possible even in limited material. Computer enhancement of bitemark photographs increases a favorable comparison by further delineating unique characteristics of the arch and individual teeth.

About Odont1

Odont1 is a seasoned forensic dentist, researcher and educator with an interest in progressing the science of the discipline while retaining those elements that are evidence based and useful to the judicial system at any level.

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